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Senate to tackle Benham Rise issue in Monday hearing

/ 04:03 PM February 25, 2018

The Senate is set to tackle the needs and issues of Filipino scientists as they “finally take center stage” at Monday’s hearing into the Philippine Rise (Benham Rise) issue, Senator Bam Aquino said Sunday.

“Pakinggan natin ang panig ng ating mga scientists, researchers, at experts (Let’s listen to the side of the scientists, researchers, and experts). Our Filipino scientists deserve respect, recognition and resources from our government,” Aquino, who chairs the committee on science and technology, said in a statement.

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“Gusto natin alamin mula sa mga eksperto kung ano ang lawak ng likas na kayamanan ng Pilipinas sa Benham Rise at kung ano nga ba ang banta ng China dito. Tatalakayin rin natin ang kailangan na pondo at tulong para sa ating local research programs,” he added.

(We want to hear from the experts the extent of the natural resources of the Philippines in the Benham Rise and what threat of China is on this. We will discuss the funds needed for our local research programs.)

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Aquino said local scientists are expected to present their research findings and government officials are set to discuss their plans for the 13-million hectares underwater plateau.

Aside from local scientists, top military and government officials will attend the hearing to shed light on the research conducted recently by China on Benham Rise.

The hearing will tackle Senate Resolutions No. 594 and 611, filed by Senators Aquino and Grace Poe, respectively.

Aquino stressed the importance of investigating the matter, saying the country’s territory and natural resources are at stake, especially now that China has named five underwater features on the undersea region.

READ: China named 5 undersea features at PH Rise – expert

The probe also comes after an exclusive report by the Inquirer has revealed several authentic aerial photos of China’s “almost finished transformation” of seven disputed reefs in the West Philippine Sea into military fortresses.

READ: EXCLUSIVE: New photos show China is nearly done with its militarization of South China Sea

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Among those invited to the hearing were Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, a known staunch defender of the country’s territories, maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal of the UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea and Dr. Fernando Siringan, director of the UP-Maritime Science Institute.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., Rear Admiral Robert Empedrad of the Philippine Navy and Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua were also invited. /je

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TAGS: Bam Aquino, Benham Rise, China, hearing, Philippine Rise, Senate
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